What to Say to Someone Who is Depressed
More Than What You Say, Just Be There
Your friend isn't just sad. She's depressed. You want to help but you just don't know what to say. Here's how to start.
True depression can have devastating effects for those who experience it as well as for their loved ones. If you fear your friend or loved one is clinically depressed, the best thing you can say is “get some help.” Unless you are trained to deal with clinical depression and all its possible consequences, you may feel confused and helpless. But you can help.
Tell him he’s worthy and good and urge him to get some professional help.
Look for Clues
Depression can range from mild to severe. Everyone gets sad now and then; life has its ups and downs. But clinical depression isn’t just a few bad days or the normal reaction to loss. If your friend’s depression is interfering with her life in significant ways, it may be time for her to seek counseling.
But how can you tell?
Sudden mood shifts are one sign. If she’s unusually moody, irritable or weepy; if she has atypical outbursts and overreactions to everyday life, it may be a sign that she’s not just sad. Withdrawal from activities she once found pleasurable, lethargy, loss of energy and interest are also signs of depression. There may be physical signs. Has she gained or lost weight? Is her personal hygiene less than optimal? People deal with depression in a variety of ways.
If you think you see the signs, but you’re just not sure, ask. “Are you feeling well?” “Are you sleeping well?” “What’s going on?”
Engage in normal conversation, but then probe as deeply as he’ll allow. The more you can find out about what’s going on in his head, the more you’ll be able to find out how you can help. If he says he just doesn’t care about much anymore, ask if he’s ever felt that way before. Maybe he’s been on medication for depression in the past and needs to start again. Or worse: maybe’s he’s stopped taking physician-recommended medications on his own.
Remind Her of Her Value
Somewhere in your prodding, you’ll likely discover that your friend’s sense of self-worth is at an all-time low. But she’s your friend! Who better than you to tell her all the reasons she’s a pretty fabulous human being? Give her some real world examples of why she’s so wonderful. Tell her you love her. Remind her of all the others who care about her as well.
Express Your Concerns
You’re worried. Let him know. It’s okay to tell him know that you’re seeing signs in his behavior that have you concerned. It shows you care and that he’s loved. It may also be the opening to a conversation in which he’ll let you know what’s going on and how he feels. Pay attention. He may not come out and say he wishes he were dead (or he may) but if he expresses the belief that he has nothing to live for, you need to get him help. Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide and according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 34 in the U.S.
Once you’ve decided that your friend may need more help than just your listening ear, help her find it. Suggest that she turn to her primary care physician to get recommendations for someone to talk to. You can also do some research to give her a list of names and local resources.
What Not to Say
Almost as important as all the positive advice you can provide your depressed friend, is making sure you don’t say the wrong thing. Don’t dismiss his feelings or offer shallow platitudes. He won’t just “get over it,” whatever it is. If he’s depressed, he needs help.